Monday, May 4, 2009

LOVE @ FIRST NOTE (Hong Kong; 2007)

D/W: Dennis Law Sau-Yiu

Official music video for Kary's song 座右銘 from LOVE @ FIRST NOTE

Product placement reaches staggering new heights—by all known international standards of the practice—in Dennis Law's LOVE @ FIRST NOTE, an electronic-press-kit-with-a-plot masterminded by Hong Kong music impresario Paco Wong, the head of Gold Label Records. The cast is a virtual catalogue of top-shelf Gold Label talent, and no effort is spared slowing a barely-there narrative for music-video-worthy performances of their top hits throughout the film.

Cantopop lovers will obviously find much to savor here—and the music is excellent of its kind—but even those disinclined to one of Hong Kong's biggest exports should give this a spin; it's bound to be dissected by future marketing professors for its sheer media-savvy chutzpah. This isn't just about someone holding a can of Coca-Cola in their hands, though it does happen here. It's about the person holding the product actually being a product themselves!

The biggest beneficiary of this super-slick infomercial is undoubtedly relative newcomer Justin Lo, an American-born singer-songwriter with a powerhouse delivery not often heard from the ranks of Hong Kong's superficial pop dispensary. Lo plays a slacker composer living with his seamstress mom who fears he might be losing his life-long best friend Kary Ng, a pseudo-goth record shop clerk who lives with her guilt-ridden alcholic father (Lam Suet), to wealthy shop customer Alex Fong, a shy, friendless singer who bemoans all the "money whores" in his life (including his parents!) while charging rare Barry Manilow and Fleetwood Mac LPs to his Visa Black Platinum card and driving around in his vintage Porsche 911. "Boarding school was my orphanage," he boo-hoos in order to make us think that maybe, just maybe, real-life pop stars aren't about the money after all.

The reverence for Cantonese pop music and the oh-so-genuinely-sensitive souls who perform it runs deep in this: nearly every time someone sings—and it happens often, in trendy nightclubs, cramped apartments, community centers and pay-as-you-go recording studios—there's inevitably a cut (or two, or three) to a listener on the verge of tears from the overwhelming wonderfulness of it all.

In keeping with the branding theme, Ng's former groupmates from Cookies make gratuitous appearances here as well: Stephy Tang and Theresa Fu play ditzy rivals who switch sides when nominal villain and rival singer Keith Lee treats Ng like dirt after she snubs his advances, and Miki Yeung quite literally hovers speechless around the margins of countless scenes because...well, they just had to get her in there somewhere!

In addition to the six songs performed by Justin Lo, three by Kary Ng, and one each by Alex Fong, Elisa Lim and Ping Pung (Kary's other pop band, consisting of Wong Tin-ho, Jerry Lee and Jan Lee, the latter pair younger brothers to the film's composer Mark Lui), those synergistic pixies at Gold Label made damned sure to include cuts by house titans Edmund Leung and Ronald Cheng (both of whom share hosting duties with Alex Fong on the hit starlet-bait TV show "Beautiful Cooking," and then cast Leo Koo, whose own career was revived by the company in 2003, in a key cameo role.

And the nine girls who pop up in those throwaway "bathroom" scenes? I smell another pre-fab idol group on the horizon...

Music Video for Justin Lo's song 決戰二世祖, heard during the opening of the film (video does not contain footage from the movie; it's just catchy, that's all)

One can only assume that music veteran George Lam, who is not on the Gold Label roster, was brought in for a cinematic passing of the torch to this new generation of candy-coated superstars.

Written, as such, by the director, who manages to slip in a shameless plug for his upcoming thriller FATAL CONTACT. Producer Herman Yau also served as the film's cinematographer, and it benefits immensely from his work.